Last November, Google tested a new “Sources” section in its search results, in the third column where ads normally appear. It seems the testing is underway again, showing extended information about actors, films, musicians, people and more. It also seems likely everyone may see this extended information soon, and that it’s the “search refresh” the Wall Street Journal wrote about in March finally arriving.
I noticed these appearing yesterday in my own search results, and Google has confirmed that there’s an experiment happening:
We’re always experimenting with ways to improve search, but we have nothing to announce at this time.
Google does indeed often experiment with new formats, randomly tagging some visitors to see the formats being tested. I apparently was one of those tagged. Most people, however, won’t see some of the examples I’ll share below, as they’re not tagged into the experiment.
I think that will change in the near future, because as I’ll explain at the end, this is one test that I suspect will go fully live soon.
Here’s what I see in a search for Lost:
You can see off to the right-hand side there’s a little summary about the TV show “Lost” that’s drawn from Wikipedia. Cast members are listed, along with a “People also search for” area showing other TV shows that seem related to Lost.
In the previous test last November, this box was called “Sources.” That label is now gone. I’m continuing to call it the “Sources” box for want of a better name.
Clicking on the links generates a new Google search along with further information. Here’s a close-up of what’s shown for Evangeline Lilly:
Similar units appear for movies, such as this for in a search for Avengers:
Music & Bands
Musical groups like U2 appear:
There’s also extended information about some people, apparently if they are listed in Wikipedia. For example, a search for “dooce” brings up extended information about blogger Heather Armstrong, who is known by that name:
Even books can get a special display:
With Or Without Google+
None of the units are dependent on Google+, nor are they part of Search Plus Your World. They appear whether you’re signed in or not, whether you use Google+ or not. But if you are part of Google+, the units might get additional information.
For example, signed-out, I see this for a search on the TV show New Girl:
Signed-in, since I follow the New Girl page on Google+, information from that appears in a “From your circles” area above the sources box:
New Format For Direct Answers Live For Everyone?
Google is also showing direct answers that come from different sources. Bas van den Beld from State Of Search also appears to be in the test and noted that for a search on “hot fuzz director,” he got a direct answer like this:
This is similar to what you see at Bing for the same search, where the information is disclosed as coming from Freebase, a service that Google owns:
However, these direct answers don’t seem part of the sources experiment. For example, using my Chrome browser in “incognito” mode, which keeps me out of the Google sources test, I can still make these boxes appear, such as this for “avengers cast:”
Is This The “Search Refresh” The WSJ Wrote About?
Direct answers like these have long been part of Google. The formats, however, seem new. The addition of the sources box also suggests that what the Wall Street Journal wrote about earlier this year, about Google offering more direct and semantic answers, is about to happen.
In WSJ Says Big Google Search Changes Coming? Reality Check Time!, I took the WSJ article to task because I thought it overhyped what was likely to happen, which was Google expanding things that it already does.
That still seems to be the case. This will no doubt be a big change to hit Google. But it will also be one of those “evolutionary not revolutionary” type of changes.
If you see these boxes, then you’re one of the few who have also been tagged as part of the experiment. If you don’t, then there’s not much you can do but wait. It seems likely they’ll eventually come for everyone.
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- WSJ Says Big Google Search Changes Coming? Reality Check Time!